Change a Habit Using This One Simple Rule

Start small, start now

Changing a behavior is hard. And quitting a bad habit or sticking to a new, positive one is challenging.

Often, we practice a new habit yet fail to stick to it just a few days later. On the other hand, when we quit a bad habit, it always seems to find its way back to us again. It seems like there is no way for us to adhere to a behavior change for very long.

When we fail, it’s easy for us to point fingers at our other traits.

"I failed to change my habits because I lack motivation."

"My bad habits are back because I don’t have enough willpower."

"I can’t stick to a new habit because I don’t have the discipline."

It’s not about motivation, willpower, or discipline. Yes, all of them play a role in changing a habit but pointing your finger at them doesn’t modify anything.

Instead, here is the one rule to make a lasting behavior change.

The power of small steps and marginal progress

I have used this one simple rule to transform many of my habits:

  • To read and write consistently.
  • To start working out (and to start again when I fell off track).
  • And to grow my blog and business.

In fact, many highly successful people such as Warren Buffett, Will Smith, and Jerry Seinfeld have used this simple rule to achieve great accomplishments in life. Here is how it works:

Start small, and do slightly more every day.

The idea is to start with something that you can get done easily. This simple act helps to ease the inner resistance you have towards the new behavior. That way, you’re not fighting against anything to stay with the routine.

There is no need for motivation, there is no need for willpower, and there is no need for discipline. Instead, make it so easy that you can simply do it without even thinking about it.

  • Push-ups. Start by doing just one push-up a day. Then add another push-up the next day. By day 20, you’re doing 20 push-ups a day.
  • Healthy diet. Start with the simplest tasks such as drinking more water or having one less teaspoon of sugar in your coffee. Then move forward to fix your breakfast and slowly adjust your portion size and macros. You can also make the subtle changes I’ve laid out here to improve your diet.
  • Read. Stop thinking about reading a book, and not even a chapter. Instead, start by reading a sentence or a paragraph. Then, add one more paragraph the next day. Before you know it, you’re reading 20 pages in a day. That’s about one to two books in a month.
  • Journal. Start by answering simple questions such as: What I’m feeling grateful for today? What I’ve done today? How do I feel today? Then slowly add more details and more depth to your journal.
  • Meditate. Start with taking three deep breaths a day. Then six the next day, and then the day after that. Progress slowly until you start focusing on breathing for one minute, and add a minute to your routine the next day, and so on.

What if you get off track?

At any moment when you get off track, go back to the ONE rule again:

Start small, and do slightly more every day.

I stopped meditating after practicing it for a year when my workload increased. To find my way back, I started with the 3-minute breathing exercise again.

I skipped and missed workout sessions when I was switching from strength training to calisthenics. To build up the habit, I started with just one set of workout (15 pushups) a day.

There is nothing fancy here. All you need is to remember the rule and be prepared to go back to the basics: start small and make progress consistently.

Make it so easy that you can’t ignore it

Changing a behavior takes time. People who expect to change a behavior in days are not being realistic. Especially when it’s a new habit they have been resisting or a bad habit they have been addicted to.

They think if they have the motivation, willpower, and discipline, they can push themselves to do what they want to do. Yes, indeed, we could push ourselves to start a new habit if we tried hard enough but it often doesn’t stick.

The best way is by making it so easy that you have no excuse to not do it.What are some habits you want to build or break now? How are you going to make it so easy that you can’t ignore it?


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